Race, Policing, and Public Inquiries During the 1980-81 Collective Violence in England
Peplow, Simon George
Date: 27 July 2015
University of Exeter
PhD in History
This thesis examines the collective violence throughout England in 1980-81; these were largely spontaneous incidents of hostility directed against police from predominantly the youth of local black communities. Rejecting characterisations of ‘mindless criminality’, most often endorsed by British authorities to direct attention away ...
This thesis examines the collective violence throughout England in 1980-81; these were largely spontaneous incidents of hostility directed against police from predominantly the youth of local black communities. Rejecting characterisations of ‘mindless criminality’, most often endorsed by British authorities to direct attention away from their actions and policies, this thesis argues that such violence was an aspect of broader attempts to increase political participation for black communities within Britain. A recent growth in mobilisation and resistance, fostered by the brief existence of the British Black Power movement, resulted in intensified battles with the police when it appeared that other avenues to protest the perceived harassment and discrimination that they faced had been closed. By rejecting public inquiries into all but the most controversial incidents, the British State continued the marginalisation of racial issues. Utilising newly released records this thesis examines in detail the accusations of misconduct and brutality levelled against the police during the disorders themselves which went unexamined. It argues that such refusal by the government and police to admit culpability, or even adequately investigate such allegations, was a continuation of a lack of accountability despite the clear community desire for the legitimacy of state-endorsed investigations. Other aspects, such as the limitations of blaming the media for the spread of ‘copycat’ disturbances and the persistent influence of Northern Ireland on both police and public, are further discussed throughout. Such discussion exists within a wider context regarding police accountability during the period due to recent revelations regarding Hillsborough and the miners’ strike, with this thesis adding to such discourse. However its focus remains firmly upon the black community of Britain; concluding that the dual attempts of increased political participation through ‘bargaining by riot’, as well as consistent demands for public inquiries and clear desire to remain engaged in the political process, must ultimately be seen as having failed to achieve their aims.
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